State Senator Frank Lombardi is a stalwart opponent of LGBTQ marriage, and abstains from all votes on marriage solemnization bills that come to the Senate Judiciary Committee or the full Senate. Marriage solemnization bills are small legislative favors that allow couples to choose an officiant who is not otherwise able to perform a marriage by law in Rhode Island.
In both the House and the Senate, marriage solemnization bills are almost always conveniently “bundled” and passed as a group. However, as can be seen in the video below, some bills are not bundled. These bills were carefully separated out and passed separately to allow Lombardi the opportunity to abstain.
On the first bill, S0059, Lomabrdi abstained because the officiant named in the bill was Lombardi himself. Properly, he didn’t vote on a bill that could potentially benefit him. The second bill, S0066, was pulled aside and passed separately because two women were seeking to be married, and Lombardi, as explained by Senate President Communications Director Greg Paré, “abstains on all same-gender marriage bills.”
Some may argue that separating out the LGBTQ marriage solemnization bills and voting on them separately is an improvement over the way this issue is dealt with in the House, where all the marriage solemnization bills are voted on as a group. I’ve written here and here about how anti-LGBTQ bigots in the House use these opportunities as a way to continue to vote against marriage equality.
But imagine if Lombardi’s bigoted abstentions were aimed at Muslim or mixed race couples instead of at LGBTQ couples. Would separating marriage solemnization bills in such a discriminatory way seem like a reasonable compromise then?
This country has a very long and very bad history of pretending it is possible for groups to be separate and equal. The process of passing marriage solemnization bills in the General Assembly has been weaponized by bigots to make cheap rhetorical points at the expense of young couples in love.
It is past time to do away with with archaic and insulting practice.